Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Monday was wet and windy. By the end of the day we’d had 15.2mm (0.6”) of rain making it the wettest day of 2015. 

As we moved into the early hours of Tuesday 31 March the wind got even stronger and we recorded the strongest gust for March at 32mph. The rain continued for a while at the heaviest rate of the year 51.4mm/hr or 2”/hr.
The gale force winds continued through the night although the rain eased off.
We’re having a windy year as January 2015 was the windiest January in the last five years. After a reasonably calm February March has become the windiest March over the last five years. 

The gales are forecast to continue into Tuesday evening so January and March 2015 have every chance of becoming the two outright windiest months of the last five years.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Love at First Sight?

Sunday was another poor day weatherwise turning out to be wet and windy.

Over the last few weeks we've checked out our nestbox cam to see a lone great tit roost in it overnight. We've assume that it’s the same one each evening. 
Not fooled by the clocks changing to British Summer Time our bird arrived at its usual time. It does seem to roost up early well before it gets dark. Our blackbirds are about singing until it’s almost dark.

But look what had happened when we checked in later on in the evening.
Was it love at first sight? You’ll have to watch the video currently being prepared to see what happened.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Meaningless Mildness

Saturday turned out to be the second mildest day of the month as the thermometer reached 15.9°C (60.6°F). That said the strong to gales force winds and frequent showers made the temperature rather irrelevant and we decided it wasn't a day for gardening.
As you can see Saturday’s chart is a real mess.

I have been keeping a record of temperatures to check how much “hardening off” young plants have when they move from our greenhouse to cold frame.
From the values I have so far I’m not that convinced that temperature plays a large part in hardening off our plants. Usually there doesn't seem to be more than 1°C variation between outside, cold-frame and greenhouse.

I seem to remember on Gardener’s World on TV the other week that Monty Don mentioned that he kept his cold greenhouse at a minimum temperature of 5°C. You’ll notice that in our greenhouse the overnight temperature was below that value on eight of the nine nights I have records for. Perhaps under those heated greenhouse conditions hardening off plants is more important but I’m still not convinced that temperatures in a cold-frame are much different to those recorded outside as far as low temperatures are concerned.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Rot Sets In

Friday turned out to be not too bad a day. It was a little bit on the cool side and as it was very cloudy and threatening rain at lunchtime so we decided not to visit the plot.

We took the opportunity to use up some of last year’s vegetables. Our winter squashes, Crown Prince, that have been stored in the summerhouse are starting to show some serious signs of deterioration. 
However, one very large squash in particular looked in excellent condition and we decided to cook, puree the flesh and freeze it. This way we would have some squash to use in pumpkin pie through the summer.
By the time the flesh had been cooked we had enough to make two pumpkin pies, two pumpkin loaves and two batches of pumpkin muffins amounting to 2.6kg of squash.

This got us into the mood and we decided to cook and freeze some of the potatoes we had left in store in the garage. These have kept well over winter but are now starting to grow new shoots and as a result they will soon be turning soft.
This box is full of a variety called Casablanca which is a first early variety and is grown for its new potato flavour rather than its keeping qualities. These potatoes were one of the first to be lifted last August and boxed up to go in the garage. Due to my lapse in organising skills the box was left at the bottom of the pile in the garage and as a result the last to be used. Nevertheless the potatoes had kept in remarkably good shape overwinter and weren't actually growing any more the any other of our remaining potatoes. These got the same treatment as the squash. They were cooked and will be frozen in suitable proportions.

We still have one or two small savoy cabbages on the plot to use, some red cabbages, a short row of leeks, possibly some carrots and some onions and shallots still stored in the garage. We’re now entering the produce gap between the last of last year’s crop and the wait for the first of this year’s crop. We’ll be very glad of our freezer supplies.

Friday, 27 March 2015

A Guided Tour

Early Thursday morning was wet with some early morning rain amounting to 3.2mm (0.13"). It cleared up quickly and the sun soon came out. As the day progressed though a strong to gale force wind got up making for a windy and rather unpleasant afternoon.
On my last visit to the plot on Wednesday I made a little video showing the state of our plots in late March. It’s a joint venture. You’ll have to watch and listen to the video to find out what I mean.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Behind

Wednesday was another day with plenty of sunshine and with only a slight breeze it felt very pleasant in the sunshine.

We are still keeping a check on our great tit hoping that it will soon start nest building. It is a bird of habit though and it tends to return to the box each evening around 18:00 to roost. As it was a nice sunny evening I decided to try and get some video of it arriving to roost. The camera was set up on a tripod a little before the expected arrival time and I went inside out of great tit view and watched the next box cam video feed.
Our great tit didn't let me down flying in just after 18:00. I have to say the video was disappointing. There’s about six frames of video ranging from a very fast and blurry arrival to the frame above where it is about to disappear into the nest box to roost for the night.

Before anyone suggests I’d get a better view of it when it leaves the box I’m not sure I want to get up before 06:00 in the morning to catch it doing that.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Froggy Heaven

We had plenty of sunshine on Tuesday but it remained cold all day with the temperature only managing to make it up to a high of 9.6°C (49.3°F). That was after a cold start to the morning with a low of 0.4°C (32.7°F). The forecast was for some heavy showers but we avoided them all apart from  a sprinkling in the middle of the afternoon.

It didn't tempt me out to do any gardening so I managed to get a little bit of photo and video editing done instead. Last week I posted about our frogs not making it to the pond before depositing their spawn in a plant saucer full of water. I can now confirm that several frogs have found their way into the pond and they haven’t wasted any time producing large clumps of frogspawn.
Now they've found their way into the pond they do seem to be having some “fun”. With a pond full of frogspawn I’m now not quite so concerned about their initial attempt of depositing spawn in the plant saucer. We've some quite enormous clumps in the pond and they appear to have every intention of adding more to it. I've put together a little bit of video of them up to their antics.
I was busy editing the frog video when I noticed a couple of long tailed tits land in the medlar tree. We used to see them regularly in the garden but over the last couple of years they have become infrequent visitors. I quickly picked up the camera but it didn't help much as they flittered quickly from tree to tree and tested out a few feeders too.
After a couple of minutes in the garden they were off over the fields. I suppose I should count myself lucky to have spotted them at all.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Back to Some Gardening

Monday wasn't a bad day at all. It started off bright and sunny but clouded over a bit around lunchtime and then the sunshine returned mid afternoon.
Saturday 21 to Monday 23 March 2015 - Temperature, Solar radiation and Wind Chill
At times it felt pretty chilly on Monday due to the strong breeze which as you can see from the purple wind chill effect, indicated above, making the temperature feel a little cooler than it was.

I thought it was about time I made a little bit more space in the greenhouse ready for sowing more seeds at the beginning of next month. I moved a few of our new strawberry plants out of the greenhouse and into our cold-frame. 
I like to think that I've moved them into the cold-frame to harden them off and to become more acclimatised to life outdoors. It’s what's suggested on all the gardening programmes and in gardening magazines. I’m not too sure that there’s much difference in coldest temperatures between our cold greenhouse, cold-frame and outdoors. I’m trying to collect a few temperatures to check this more accurately but so far I only have temperatures covering the last 3 nights so not much to report. 

Our banana tree has had the luxury of spending the winter in the greenhouse this year. For the last couple of years it’s been left outside with some straw over the root to protect against any severe frosts. After a winter in the greenhouse it looked like this.
It was definitely looking a bit sorry for itself so I decided to give it a tidy up ready for it come back into life over the next few weeks. The dead leaves were removed and the thickish stem was cut back rather drastically. 
Hopefully the new leaves will soon start to shoot from the centre of the cut back stem. We've still to decide where it’s going to spend summer or indeed if it will remain in a large pot or be planted in the ground. Our main concern is to find it a spot out of the wind to avoid as much leaf damage as possible through the summer.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Steam in the Esk Valley

Sunday was a much better day with some decent sunny periods and temperatures around normal for the time of year.

Our plan was for a trip to the Esk Valley in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. My main reason for a visit was for a bit of steam train photography as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway were operating a steam hauled service along the Network Rail line from Whitby to Battersby through the Esk Valley line.  

There’s always so much to photograph visiting the North Yorkshire Moors. 
There was a stark contrast between the brown of the upland moors and greener fertile valleys.
These Highland Cattle had a wonderful view of the countryside but were far more intent on tucking into some fresh silage. They didn't seem at all bothered when we stopped to take a few pictures.
We eventually got some pictures of a steam train as it approached Lealholm station. On the return journey home we stopped in Great Ayton to take a couple of pictures.
Great Ayton was where the famous explorer James Cook spent part of his childhood. His family moved into the village when he was eight years old and he lived in Great Ayton until he was 16 years old when he moved to Staithes near Whitby. He joined the Royal Navy when still in his teens and went on to be one of Britain's greatest explorers.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Looking Better

Saturday was cold and cloudy and not much like spring at all.

Down on the plot I managed to give most of our grass paths a first strimming of the year. Some bits off path had long straggly grass and in some areas the grass had hardly grown at all.
It did transform some parts of the plot especially around the fruit growing beds. I didn't get round to trimming all the edges I thought I’d better leave something to do for another day.

Although the weather wasn't particularly spring like most of our fruit trees are now showing the first sign of this year’s buds breaking. So much to look forward to at this time of year.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Was That It?

Friday was solar eclipse day. Viewed from home this wasn’t a total eclipse but it was pretty close. Of course all the warnings were in force regarding photographing and viewing the event. The details and timing of the eclipse in Ossett were as shown in this screen grab below.
I've grabbed the details from this web site timeanddate.com which lists details of future solar and lunar eclipse for various UK locations. I've heard all sorts of dates mentioned about our next solar eclipse but this web site lists them all together with a little diagram of partiality. 

So for the big event there was lots of cloud about in Ossett. We had a few very tiny patches of blue sky but these weren't anywhere near the position of the sun. As the eclipse started the sun was covered by light cloud and to be honest those casual glances upwards that we weren't suppose to make revealed very little appearing to take place. 

We watched a bit of coverage on TV and had another forbidden look out of the window and there was no change. It still looked sunny behind the fairly light cloud. Darker clouds crossed the sun and surprisingly enough it got a little bit gloomier outside. At this point we decided to give up on the event. The TV was turned off and I headed outside and up to the greenhouse.
That was when I spotted it. The cloud cover was thick enough to allow a view of the sun but not thick enough to obscure the sun altogether. It was only a fleeting view before the sun disappeared behind the clouds.

Out of interest I've included my weather stations temperature and solar radiation reading below for Friday morning.
Intriguingly there’s a dip in both temperature and solar radiation at about the time of the eclipse. I've no idea whether that’s due to the eclipse or the vastly varying amounts of cloud we had through the morning. 

The next solar eclipse in Wakefield will be visible on 21 August 2017 but will only cover a very small part of the sun. The next eclipse of similar coverage is 23 September 2090. I’m not adding it into my diary.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Almost There

Thursday morning was rather dull and cloudy and once again a bit on the cold side. The afternoon brightened up with some hazy sunshine but it didn't do an awful lot for the temperature.

As we haven’t had any really heavy rain for a good few weeks now, I thought it might be a good time to finally get our new strawberry bed cultivated ready for our plants to move in.

This how I’d left the bed a few weeks ago when I considered the part covered with straw too wet to dig. Rather than dig the bed over by hand I’d transported the cultivator to the plot so that if the soil condition was suitable the bed could be made ready for our strawberry plants.
Luckily for me the soil was in good condition and cultivated well. The bed was dug over and some fish blood and bone fertiliser added. The bed is now ready for covering with some weed control fabric. It will be left to settle for a couple of weeks before our strawberries are planted.

These are our new Cambridge Favourite strawberry plants. They've come on well in the greenhouse and I think it’s time they had a couple of weeks out in the cold-frame hardening off before they are planted out on the plot.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Frogs Without Sat Nav

After a very chilly night we had some nice sunshine in the morning which sort of faded away by lunchtime. Once again temperatures were disappointing for the middle of March.

We've been keeping an almost daily watch on our pond waiting for the frogs to return and lay their frog spawn. We may have been a little bit lax in either noticing or hearing them but the frogs have arrived but not where you might expect.
The photo above shows their normal territory. I assume they enter the pond using the marginal plants at the ponds edge. They usually lay their frog spawn in the shallow areas in the pond where the blackbirds have created little patches of water among the weeds which the birds use for taking a bath. So far nothing.
Then we thought that perhaps they’d decided to use what Sue likes to call our puddle pond. We've inspected that and there’s no frog spawn in there either. We decided that this year the frogs must be late arriving or worse still they weren't going to arrive at all.

As it’s the first week that the council will collect our recycled garden rubbish this year, I decided to give our lawn a bit of a trim. I could just about manage to get the grass clippings into the bin. I set the mower on virtually its highest setting and began mowing. That’s when I noticed the frog spawn.
As I was mowing I was contemplating whether or not I was going to bother edging the lawn. As I mowed past the large plant pot saucers I had to have a second take. Was that really frog spawn I could see?
As you can see we've plenty of frog spawn in this saucer. Perhaps the frogs Sat Nav failed and they couldn't locate the main pond. There again maybe they’re expecting me to tip out the frog spawn from the saucer into the pond. Perhaps the frogs know that there will be enough rain to keep the saucer topped up with water although if that’s the case I don’t know what several hundred tadpoles will find to eat in a saucer of water.

So we’re trying to decide the best course of action for the survival of the frog spawn. I could simply add it to the pond but I know that will result in most of it been eaten by our fish. They treat it like free caviar. Alternatively I could keep the tray topped up with water, but should I use pond water or rainwater from our water butt. And what if they all turn into tadpoles. I’ll cross that bridge if it happens! 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

First Main Crop Sown

Tuesday was a little bit better than forecast with a few sunny spells developing. Temperatures were still a little bit disappointing for the middle of March but the sunshine lifted the temperature into the high teens in the greenhouse. The greenhouse door was left open for the afternoon just incase any insects cared to pop in and pollinate our nectarine flowers.

I made the most of the decent weather to get our first main crop seeds of the year sown. These were broad bean “Witkiem Manita”. 

They’re supposed to be a very fast maturing crop which can be as early as an autumn sowing. The proviso is that to achieve this they have to be sown in February so obviously I’m a month or so out. In the past a March sowing in pots before transplanting into the plot has given us an excellent crop of beans. I’m planning on them being ready for picking by late June or early July given some good growing weather.
The seeds have been planted two to a cell in modules with 15 cells. That’s used up my packet of seeds so no second attempts if germination fails. If both seeds germinate that won’t be a problem as both plants will be planted out and left to grow on. I've done this in the past with no problems.

The broad beans are the first to move into the cold frame where they've been left to germinate. I’m wondering if I should give them some extra protection with a covering of fleece. 

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary http://ossettweather.blogspot.co.uk/ author M Garrett

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A Cold Easterly

After a few nice days at the beginning of the month the weather has now reverted into winter mode rather than meteorological spring. Those westerly winds that blow in off the Atlantic do give us some changeable weather whereas with high pressure in charge and easterly winds blowing in off the North Sea we get settled conditions. It’s just that the settled conditions aren’t at all good.
The above chart is a bit messy. The purple shading clearly shows how the wind direction has moved out of the west and into the east. The yellow blocks show the amount of solar energy received each day and the considerable reduction over the last few days as a result of very cloudy conditions. The temperature hasn't fluctuated much either with no particularly cold nights but no mild days either.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Gone and Done It

Sunday was another cold and miserable day. It was cloudy all day although it didn't rain.

After making my solar powered light box on Saturday I decided to sow a few tomato seeds to get my experiment started. The question was which tomato seeds to sow. As it’s a bit of an experiment I decided to choose varieties which had the most seeds in the packet. The seed packet descriptions for the lucky tomato seeds to take part in my experiment are:

Cherry Fountain
Vigorous bush variety suited to large baskets or containers. Cherry red fruit crops over a very long harvesting period. One of the best tasting tomatoes of recent years.

Baby Boomer
Hundreds of 1 inch sweet cherry tomatoes smother the plant. Bush habit so fruit is always plentiful. 55 from days from transplanting. Bred for it superlative flavour.
Four seeds of each variety spaced equally apart in a quarter size seed tray. The seeds were covered with vermiculite and placed under our indoor growlight to germinate. Once I've got some decent sized seedlings I’m going to transplant them into small sized pots and grow them on in my light box on a sunny south facing window ledge.

While I was sowing the tomato seeds in the greenhouse I couldn't help but notice all the flowers on our nectarine.
Our apricot, nectarine and peach are all coming into flower and keeping Sue busy with her bee on a stick. (No bees are harmed during this pollinating process). It’s to be hoped that we get some fruit after all her efforts. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Dull and Cold

After the wet weather of Friday, Saturday produced the dullest day of the month. It wasn't quite the coldest day of the month as the thermometer only managed a high of 6.9°C (44.4°F) but there was only fractions of a degree in it.

I know lots of bloggers have already sown their tomato seeds but I’m always a little bit cautious. I can usually get good germination sowing seeds under our indoor grow light. For a couple of weeks they can remain under the light, growing into sturdy little seedlings. Then comes my problem. Where do I move them to next? It’s far too cold to move them into the cold greenhouse where they’ll just freeze. So I’m experimenting with a few seeds hoping for a couple of early plants.
I've converted this into this…..
Hopefully I’ll have enough space for four small tomato plants to grow on a window-ledge. The foil will hopefully reflect back as much light as possible stopping the seedlings from becoming too leggy.

Now I've got to decide which varieties of tomato seeds to try.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Wettest of the Year

After some overnight rain Friday turned out to be our wettest day of the year so far with 9.6mm (0.38”) of rainfall which fell mainly in the early hours of the morning. The previous wettest day had been 07 January 2015 with 7.0mm (0.28”).
Judging from my blog posting of 04 March 2015 I reckon our bed of spring bulbs planted under the bird bath are a couple of weeks later into full bloom than they were in 2012.

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Trains the Star - Isn't It?

After a dull, damp and misty start to the day Thursday didn't turn out too badly with some hazy sunny spells at times and a little bit milder than we might expect for the middle of March.

We had the afternoon out and about locally. First call was Colton Junction to catch a steam locomotive 61306 Mayflower bringing the Cathedrals Express from London Kings Cross to York.
 Next it was off for lunch at a local farm shop. As we were leaving after lunch Sue spotted some lambs and managed to take one or two photos.
It was then a visit to a couple of garden centres where we bought a Trachelospermum Jasminoides Wilsonii a white, summer flowered climber and a couple more Anemone Blanda to add to the two that were looking a little bit lonely beneath our small Acer.

I've no more news of nest box cam activity. Thanks to a Windows update we didn't have any images of our great tit leaving the nest box early in the morning but a great tit did visit the box around lunchtime. 
Of course we don’t know whether or not it’s the one who is using our box to roost in overnight. I don’t know what you think but it looks like it would be a little bit cramped for space with two adult birds and a family of youngsters. I suppose the birds know what they’re doing.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Where’s Spring Gone?

Wednesday morning was nice and sunny. It didn't last all day and by lunchtime clouds had gathered and we had some drizzly rain. That’s how it stayed for the remainder of the day.

We've had just enough sunshine and a hint of warmth to make us think that spring has arrived and then we’re back to winter.
The forecast for the next few days doesn't hold out much promise of spring arriving.

We've been checking out nest box cam awaiting developments. 
What we know so far is that our great tit was up and out of the nest box at around 06:20 in the morning. The only action through the day was a blue tit carrying out a quick inspection later in the morning. At least it was light enough to confirm that the camera was still operating in colour when there is sufficient light. Then we’re presuming that the same great tit returned at 17:32 and once again roosted in the box overnight.

Sadly no sign of any nest building going on yet but it’s early days.